the doggy lama

peaceful pooches • proud people • practical pet coaching

Spring is blooming all over and it’s the perfect time to help our fur friends to get in shape.

According to a recent study published in the Wall Street Journal, one-fifth of dogs and cats are classified ‘obese’, while more than 30 per cent are above normal weight. This epidemic is causing record-breaking cases of pet arthritis, cancers, diabetes and kidney failure.

No one wants to think of their pooch as pudgy, or their cat as fat, but the good news is that this condition is 100% within our control.

Steven Budsberg, veterinary expert at the University of Georgia, told the Wall Street Journal, ‘There’s the high cost to people, and it’s self-induced. I never met a German shepherd who could open the refrigerator or food bag and pour himself another bowl.’

Try these get-fit tips this spring, and all year round:

  • Increase walks in the beautiful weather while listening to a catchy tune that will keep you moving. Both of your hearts will appreciate it!
  • Portion control is everything. Feed the amount appropriate for your pet’s perfect weight…not their current weight. Your vet can help you determine the right poundage to help protect joints and organs.
  • From the ‘aerial view’, your pooch should have a ‘waist’ and you should be able to easily feel ribs:

dog weights from too thin to obese

Join us for a skill-building workshop to:

  • put the kibosh on pulling
  • develop the best techniques for getting the 2Ps and the E (hint: the E stands for exercise)
  • Create a great walk routine that makes the most of the best part of your dog’s day

Space is limited, so grab your registration now.

All participating dogs must be on leash and in reasonable control to walk with us.
If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, or is very reactive to anything on the street, please sign up for an individual Walk and Talk session.

A lost dog says, "I'm so scared. Please don't scare me more."

I’m both sad and glad to report that my friends’ Beagle mix, Sassafras is still missing. It’s sad because she has been on the street since April 8th. It’s glad because recent search tracks have indicated that she is still out there. (See the latest in her blog here.)

I spoke to one of Sassafras’ people yesterday about DC Lost Pet Alert wanting to know the most important things anyone hoping to help in a search should know.

What struck me the most is that the one thing a good-hearted person would want to do to help is the very last thing they should do.

When my friend said, “Tell people to take a picture right away, preferably one with a time stamp. Collect as much information as you can about where you are. Do NOT chase the dog!” it made perfect sense in a way I had not thought of before.

By trying to be a helping hero, rather than collecting information, you could actually make things worse for the dog.

Read more about why it is such a bad idea, after the jump.

Read more on “How to help a lost dog” »

Join us for the Annual Community Dog Show sponsored my MPD Area 105

This is one of my favorite events of the year.

I’ll be joining a couple of local dignitaries at the judging table. We will put our noses together to choose the best in show, as well as best costume, best trick, funniest, smallest/tallest, etc.

See the calendar for details and then bring your four footed friends for a fun time!

alpha rolls make sense when a dog does it. a human should never even consider it!

Just recently, I witnessed a well-meaning dog person pinning his puppy to the ground, his hand around her neck. He used an alpha roll in an effort to teach his dog to not jump on other dogs in the park.

The puppy screamed so loudly and for so long, that I broke off a conversation I was having with a client, and sprinted across the park. I was expecting to have to do first aid on an injured animal.

Instead, I found this man, holding his four month old down, looking at her with thunder in his eyes.

Can you see the error in his logic?

Read more on “alpha rolls make sense when dogs do it” »

For years, I’ve been advocating that people leave puppies with their litter mates for at least sixty days and, preferably eighty to ninety.

Doing so gives the puppies the chance to learn natural bite inhibition from their razor toothed mates in a way that human intervention simply can’t. This leads to a soft mouth later in life and much less danger of aggressive biting.

A new study in the British Veterinary Associations Veterinary Record supports this theory and suggests many other behavior problems can be avoided by leaving puppies in the litter for at least 60 days.

The study of 140 dogs between the ages of eighteen months and seven years suggested that dogs taken from their litter between thirty and forty days exhibited destructiveness, aggression, nuisance barking, food and toy defending, neediness, play biting, and resistance on the walk.

The behavior that surprised me, but which makes sense upon reflection, is noise reactivity. Any puppy left with their shrieking, attention-seeking litter mates is bound to be better able to adjust to loud sounds later in life.

Each of the problem behaviors identified in Dr. Federica Pirrone‘s research can be managed with positive reinforcement, desensitization and distraction techniques at any age. But wouldn’t it be great if that weren’t necessary?

The bottom line: Do not despair, or give up, if your dog lacks litter education. Above all, avoid buying puppies from pet shops/puppy mills and breeding farms that sell puppies too early in their development.

Years ago, I worked with a lovely woman whose dog was behaving like the bossiest boss you ever met.

The dog… we’ll call her Prada (no relation to any dog actually named Prada)…was aggressive, overbearing and loud. Her person… we’ll call her Patty…was sad, confused and disappointed in her relationship with her beloved pooch.

“It just shouldn’t be this hard,” she cried.

While visiting their home, it became clear to me that Prada had not been given a job, or any real boundaries at all. Everything that happened in her life was based on making her ‘happy’ in the way a parent would try to make a child happy. The floor was covered with toys, Patty gave Prada the lion’s share of the bed, fed her extravagant foods and basically bent to her every whim.

As a result, Prada was full, fat and very, very unhappy. When I spoke the word ‘unhappy’, Patty’s heart just sank. “What else can I do?” she asked.

The answer? Do a lot less and change your tone of voice. Where Patty had spoken in a quiet, submissive voice, what Prada needed was something much stronger.

I asked Patty to lower the register of her voice and to speak with a louder, more clipped tone so that her dog could better hear her. You see, it isn’t the words you speak, but HOW you speak them that leads to understanding with your dog.

She shrunk back a little and said, “But I don’t want to hurt her. Isn’t it hurting to be mean like that?”

I completely understand where that fear comes from, but it doesn’t belong in human-to-canine communication.

We don’t hurt our dog’s feelings by speaking to them with authority. In fact, we make them feel safer and more calm by doing so.

Bottom line: There is no anger in leadership. Frustration and squishy boundaries don’t make your dog happy. If your dog isn’t happy, you won’t be either!


The truth is, any one of them would be sufficient. The key is to choose one and stick to it. In fact, you could say ‘kumquat’ with the same results, as long as you were consistent.

Problems arise when multiple words, spoken multiple times confuse your dog. It might even seem that your dog is being defiant or devious.

In reality, asking your dog to NOT take any food s/he finds is counter to basic canine instinct. Yelling OFF/DOWN/LEAVE IT doesn’t clarify what you want your dog to do.

Also, your dog cannot understand the multiple meanings we apply to words, nor can s/he understand using more than one word for the same behavior.

Be especially mindful of the difference between ‘down’ and ‘off’. These are the two most often confused and most frustrating words for both people and dogs. Choose one behavior for each word.

For example: off means ‘get off’ and down means ‘chest to the ground.’

If that distinction works for you, stick with it!

If you find yourself fumbling and forgetting the ‘right’ words, try getting your meaning across without words.

Body language is much more effective to your dog’s way of thinking.

All creatures respond to rewarded behaviors. Figure out what you want your dog to do and reward that while avoiding rewards for unwanted behavior.

Keep in mind that your voice, touch, attention, food, games and toys are all rewards.

Even yelling is rewarding!

Practice unwavering leadership every day, especially on your walk. The energy you’re projecting internally is the message you’re sending to your dog.

If you want calm, DO calming things. If you need self-control from your dog, BE an example of self-control to your dog.

the doggy lama and Saving Grace Pet Services are thrilled to announce their partnership


Bonny King-Taylor, whose pet coaching practice is called doggy lama pet coaching, is teaming up with Saving Grace Pet Services, the largest and most trusted dog-walking and pet-sitting company on Capitol Hill.

Grace Steckler, CEO of Saving Grace Pet Services, has hired King-Taylor as her Director of Public Relations and Human Resources.  King-Taylor will train the Saving Grace staff to be top-notch canine behaviorists.

“Our walkers will be better educated on canine health and well-being,” says Steckler. “They will understand the intricacies of how a dog’s mind works which will make them more confident, safer and better care takers.”

King-Taylor, Capitol Hill’s own dog whisperer, uses dog psychology to help people and dogs understand each other. She has been making the world more peaceful – one pooch at a time — for the last five years. Her motto is: “peaceful pooches, proud people, through practical pet coaching.”

“The best things you can do for your dog are surprisingly counter-intuitive,” King-Taylor says.

“In fact, the human mind works in almost the exact opposite ways that a canine mind sees the world. Knowing this makes dog obedience training so much simpler.”



King-Taylor’s expertise came into play during a recent training session with a Saving Grace veteran. When the walker arrived at a client’s home, a pair of reactive dogs rushed to the door, barking and staking territory. King-Taylor taught the walker how to use body language and a calm mindset to quiet the dogs which improved the entry routine for their walks.

Read more on “Capitol Hill dogs never had it so good!” »

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